Learning perspective: ReachOut.com’s Leaving Cert memories
So on Wednesday our internet went down in the office. Shock horror! Feeling completely useless, we waited patiently for the internet people to come to the rescue. Having the Leaving Cert very much on the brain that morning, we started talking about our own exams. We reminisced about what got us through and the perspective you have looking back on sixth year.
We decided we’d share what we remembered with you. We’re not saying we’re all worldly wise, but we’ve all been through it and survived. Here are ReachOut.com’s recollections of the big LC:
“Ok, the leaving cert…my memories of it aren’t great at all because I’ve done a few exams since and each exam that came after became the ‘most important exam ever’. I also did my Leaving Cert in the school gym, somewhere I’ve played more football and basketball than taken exams, so my strongest associations with the physical exam hall are of sports-related activity.
Other memories? My kid sister was doing her Junior Cert the same year and I remember us both being a little spoilt at home…got the dinners we wanted, grumpy mood tolerated. I also remember being grateful that it wasn’t a World Cup or European Championship year, although the weather was really nice so it was a shame to be stuck indoors.
After that, I just remember feeling really happy, thinking I’d gotten over a big milestone when it was all done. I really and truly had no idea about what I wanted to do afterwards (although I still harboured barely realistic notions of being a professional footballer) so in a strange way that took a lot of pressure off me…I had applied for a few courses and I knew I’d be offered something…one unknown third level course was as good as the next one as far as I was concerned…All in all, happy days, honestly.”
My main memory from the Leaving Cert was that after all the hype and worry it was over in eight days!!! EIGHT DAYS like!! Two years of talking about it and then it was just over in a week! I was happy with some exams and disappointed with others but after a few weeks I totally forgot about it and I had the best summer of my life!! By the time it came to results none of us where that bothered by it and we were all just looking forward to the adventure of moving out and going to college.”
The Leaving Cert for me was a long time ago, but that instruction ‘you may now turn over your exam paper’ (do they still say that ?!) still sends shivers through me. I remember the good weather, the big hall, the fellow students who panicked me by asking for reams more extra writing paper and the sound of the ticking clock.
The exam time flew in, and in no time it was the last week of June and I flew from the school nest and started out on the big life adventure. Looking back it was a time of mixed emotion – relief that exams were finally over and a sadness that I was leaving a big group of friends that I had shared the previous five years with.
Exams didn’t feature in my life for another 25 years when I did an MBA as a mature student – and the time in between put everything in perspective. Ok – I still got nervous when I ‘turned over the exam paper’ and writing as opposed to typing for a couple of hours was a nightmare (!), but I had the benefit of hindsight knowing that I probably knew more that I thought I did, I really did read the exam paper before rushing into the answers and that everything really would be ‘ok’.”
Things about the Leaving Cert that I loved…when I got into the study or exam zone. The feeling of camaraderie that I felt with everyone in my class going through the same thing. I had a real sense of belonging (which I didn’t always feel). Being supported at home (there was nice food for once!). And…studying outside!
Things I hated about the Leaving Cert…having a sore finger from writing. The feeling that I should have done more. And, to be honest, the day I got my results remains one of the toughest days I’ve experienced. But you know what? I got through it!”
In a weird way I loved doing the Leaving Cert. The exams that is, not all the rubbish beforehand. But I enjoyed that fact that it was the first time I felt independent in school context. It was only me writing to the correctors who would never know who I was. I enjoyed doing it so much that I did it twice. I didn’t do much better the second time either, partly due to the fact that my ambitions far outweighed the work I was willing to put in.
So be it. It was, in itself, a valuable lesson, a lesson learned twice, I had been winging it being a smart ass for a long time quite easily. Some of the decisions I made afterwards weren’t the smartest either, but there’s a book in those. I only think about it now when it’s that time of year, and each time I look back I realise there have been many other events that have had much more impact on my life or who I am now.”
Looking back, I think I paid way too much attention to the hype around the Leaving Cert and to other people’s expectations. I got myself all stressed out, set my expectations way too high and unsurprisingly didn’t get the points I wanted.
But things have a way of working out; it may take a bit longer to get what you want, or you may be taken down a completely different path, but you can have lots of fun along the way. So my advice; try to ignore the hype, don’t get too stressed out and once each exam is over forget about it and move on!”
I can’t really remember too much about the Leaving Cert…shows the affects of ageing! The one thing I do remember is my big reward after finishing the Leaving Cert, which was a Sega Dreamcast- An old video games console that never really took off. Daydreaming about hanging out with friends and playing the console during the summer is what got me through the exams. Always good to have that reward to keep the motivation up!”
What do I remember about the Leaving Cert? Hmm. Lying on the grass outside school with my friends making daisy chains,and reciting our history special topics (nerds!). Laughing hysterically in that way you do when you’re so hysterical that all you can do is laugh. Turning over English Paper 1 and writing my heart out. The feeling that I would never, ever have to do a maths test again IN MY WHOLE LIFE!
There were definitely tough moments too- Irish aurals where I couldn’t make out a word or the morning before biology that I was convinced I’d forgotten it all. But the feeling I remember most is one of freedom, of excitement for what was around the corner, and that whatever happened with my results, I’d done it. It was done. And now, looking back, I think that what I learned most wasn’t on the curriculum, it was about knowing that you could get through anything, and mostly stuff isn’t as scary as you imagine.”